Hampden-Sydney professor to read at SBC

| October 8, 2013

Sweet Briar College will host a poetry reading by Nathaniel Perry, Elliott Assistant Professor of English at Hampden-Sydney College, at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, in the Browsing Room in Mary Helen Cochran Library. The event is part of Sweet Briar’s 2013-2014 Writers Series and is free and open to the public.

Nathaniel Perry. Photo by Courtney Vogel.

Perry will read mostly from his 2011 poetry collection “Nine Acres.” The book follows the chapter titles of “Five Acres and Independence,” a small-farm handbook from 1935 by horticulturalist M.G. Kain. Each of Kain’s chapters provided the title for Perry’s 52 poems, which range from “Green Manures and Cover Crops” and “Essentials of Spraying and Dusting” to “Small Farm Fruit Gardens.”

But the titles’ agricultural tone isn’t necessarily reflected in its content, as Lynda Fleet Perry (no relation) points out in her review of “Nine Acres” in the journal Blackbird.

“If the titles seem prosaic, the poems themselves certainly do not. Images spiral and accumulate, incrementally, each one complicating the previous one,” she writes, citing “Figures Don’t Lie,” in which “a field full of hay bales under a night sky yields a startling comparison to stars: ‘Nights we notice the field hinged / to stars, or to the field the stars / are set on. In our earthly field, / hay is still baled and waiting far // in the distance, and so I say the stars / are fire baled.’ ”

Perry will also read new work from his upcoming book “Bizarre,” which “focuses a fair amount on parenting — though all of my work is pretty deeply rooted in the natural world as well,” he says.

He admits his three children, ages 1 to 5, have influenced the way he writes — at least practically speaking.

“They have changed my writing process by utterly annihilating any notion of ‘free-time’ or ‘writing time’ I ever may have had,” Perry says. “So you have to squeeze things in. But, on the other hand, they entirely changed my conception of moving through the day and the calendar, so they have not really ‘changed’ my writing so much as given me something real to write about.”

“Being alive” remains his primary inspiration, he adds. “The day-to-day things are the hardest and most confusing things we do: being a parent, walking through and being a part of the physical world, making sense of the spiritual side of being human — these are the things I struggle with and find most compelling as subjects for art.”

Perry has been teaching poetry at Hampden-Sydney College since 2008 and edits the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review. This will be his first visit to Sweet Briar. His recent work appears or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review Online, Subtropics, Orion and elsewhere. He is currently working on his second book, “Bizarre.”

Perry was born just outside Atlanta and attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he met his wife. He lives with his family between Cumberland and Farmville in rural Southside Virginia.

For more information about this event, contact John Gregory Brown at brown@sbc.edu or (434) 381-6434.

Janika Carey

Category: Creative Writing